February 27, 2019

Udall, Heinrich, Luján Secure $3 Million Grant Match for Southwest Chief

Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján, along with U.S. Representative Deb Haaland, announced that Amtrak at long last will provide $3 million in matching funds to complete the federal TIGER IX grant awarded in January of 2018 for safety upgrades and maintenance along the historic Southwest Chief long-distance passenger rail route.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of local communities and bipartisan work in Congress, Amtrak will fulfill its promise to match $3 million in TIGER funding. This critical grant will fund badly needed improvements to the Southwest Chief rail line, and keep it rolling down the tracks from Raton to Gallup and beyond,” said Udall. “Today’s funding is part of the $50 million in additional money that we secured in the most recent appropriations bill, and this major investment in rural infrastructure will ensure a strong and stable future for this historic route, support construction jobs, and benefit our economy. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep working with New Mexico communities, Amtrak leadership, and other stakeholders to make sure this engine of economic growth will keep chugging long into the future.”

“I’m pleased Amtrak is keeping their commitment to the maintain the Southwest Chief route,” said Heinrich. “This funding will make much-needed repairs and improvements to upgrade this important long-distance passenger rail service. The Southwest Chief isn't just a railroad route in New Mexico, every summer it brings thousands of Scouts from around the country to New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch and generates economic activity in our communities. I’ve been proud to work with this bipartisan coalition that has fought to save the Southwest Chief and will continue fighting to protect this essential service for our communities and ensure the long-term viability of the route.”

“The Southwest Chief line is a critical economic driver in New Mexico that exposes new people to our beautiful landscapes every single day. Amtrak’s funding will ensure the preservation and improvement of this infrastructure and allow this line to continue serving rural New Mexico and the country,” said Luján.

Earlier this month, Congress passed and the president signed the FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related (THUD) Appropriations Act, which included a Udall-Heinrich-Luján measure to provide resources for maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief route and compel Amtrak to fulfill its promise of matching funding for the successful TIGER IX discretionary grant supported by local communities in New Mexico along the route. This grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million in the Southwest Chief. The legislation also prohibits Amtrak from replacing long-distance train service with buses. Previously, Amtrak leadership had proposed replacing train service with bus service along a significant portion of the route.

“The Southwest Chief runs straight through my district and connects rural communities in New Mexico to doctors, grocery stores, goods, and services in other parts of the state. This TIGER IX Grant will make sure that this service continues to link our communities together through an affordable transportation alternative,” said Haaland.

“I am pleased that Amtrak has released this funding to support the Southwest Chief passenger train route. This route, which passes through Southeast Iowa and has a stop in Ft. Madison, is very important to the area’s economic vitality. Having access to Amtrak routes in rural areas is very important to those communities, along with folks who need an alternative travel option to highways,” said Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa).

“As an affordable alternative transportation option for travelers in the region, this service remains vital for rural and urban communities alike. Some of the most scenic views from Los Angeles to Chicago can be seen in the great state of Colorado along this route and I am pleased to see Amtrak release the funds needed to keep service running for the Southwest Chief passenger train,” said Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Colorado).

In a recent study by the Rail Passengers Association and the University of Southern Mississippi, maintaining rail services between Dodge City, Kansas and Albuquerque, New Mexico prevented $180 million in losses for local economies. Last year, Udall and Heinrich wrote to Amtrak’s CEO urging him to uphold Amtrak’s side of a longstanding public-private partnership to continue operating the Southwest Chief passenger train and long-distance passenger service.

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, connecting towns and cities across the western United States and providing train and long-distance passenger service, particularly through rural areas. In New Mexico, the Southwest Chief serves several communities, including Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque, and Gallup.

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Press Contact

Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870
Vanessa Valdivia (Heinrich) 202.228.1578
Lauren French (Luján) 202.225.6190